Max the dog lives the perfect life with his owner, Katie, but when she returns home one day with a new dog called Duke, his life is turned upside down. One day the two dogs get separated from their walker and end up on the other side of the city; with their friends trying to find them, will the pair be able to get past their differences to work together and make their way home?

The Secret Life of Pets (2016) – Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney

Is The Secret Life of Pets appropriate for kids

By Source, Fair use,

Rating: U

Running Length: 90 mins

Starring: Louis C. K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart

Genre: Animated, Comedy


With a trailer heavily played and therefore a film hotly anticipated ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ has finally landed in cinemas. With most of the trailers giving little of the plot away, audiences were left guessing as to what the movie would actually entail. The story, of course, centres around what pets get up to when their owners leave them home alone.

Being made by those behind the ‘Despicable Me’ movies, ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ had the potential to be groundbreaking or at least original, so it is disappointing that it is so similar to many other kids’ movies but lacks much of the charm and humour that the others possessed. This, of course, won’t be an issue for the kids watching but the adults of the audience are bound to be a little bored by the predictability of the story.

Overall, ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ is fun and energetic but its lack of originality is likely to make it more of a hit with the younger members of the audience and make less of an impact on their accompanying adults.


It is established early in the movie that Max lives a spoiled and privileged life but this is shattered when huge dog, Duke, comes crashing into his life. Duke’s introduction sees his suddenly slamming through a door and he is shown in extreme close up which could make some kids jump.

Duke initially seems lovable and innocent, despite his enormous size, however this quickly changes when he becomes angry with Max. There are several close-ups of his face and his anger makes him seem slightly unhinged. This lasts for around one minute and could be unexpectedly frightening for kids.

A character bullies another, making him behave like a servant, fetching things and doing various tasks for him. The character, who has previously been introduced as ‘good’, deliberately humiliates the other in front of his friends.

A group of cats attack Max and Duke when they accidentally find themselves in their territory. The lead cat is immediately threatening and tells them that he will ‘cut (you) into string, ball you up and bat you around for hours’. Dozens of cats then surround the two dogs, looking aggressive and psychotic, many of them gnashing their teeth.

A group of animals live underground in sewers, they are bitter and aggressive, particularly towards humans as they were once pets but were abandoned and they therefore feel betrayed by the ones they loved. They have an initiation ceremony whereby new members of their group have to be bitten by a large snake. There are numerous extreme close-ups of this snake who approaches two established characters threateningly as they cower in fear.

A character is trapped in a vehicle which falls off a bridge and into some water, a friend tries to free them but as the vehicle sinks further underwater, the situation appears grim. The two character’s look at each other and are resigned to the inevitable. This scene with the panic, desperation and some sadness lasts for around five minutes and although help does arrive, this could be quite upsetting.



‘The Secret Life of Pets’ will probably be disappointing for anyone expecting the same calibre of story and originality as the ‘Despicable Me’ movies, however kids will almost certainly enjoy it. While this movie should be suitable for all ages, we recommend caution for children who are sensitive to characters displaying threatening behaviour.

  • Violence 1/5 (a hawk persuades a character to release him and immediately attacks with the intention of killing, the ‘victim’ fights back and does not have any fear of the hawk who is quickly subdued)
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5
  • Fear Factor: 1/5 (some of the ‘bad’ characters speak in a menacing and sinister way, the people they are speaking to don’t always realise that they are under threat but it is made clear to the audience that they are not being as nice as their dialogue may otherwise suggest)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5       
  • Bad Language: 0/5 
  • Dialogue: 1/5
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of friendship, taking risks to protect loved ones, the consequences of treating someone badly, determination, not giving up and helping others.

Words by Laura Record

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